Fancy a job at the top? Sunderland City Council to begin search for new chief executive

Sunderland Civic Centre, the headquarters of the city council.
Sunderland Civic Centre, the headquarters of the city council.

Sunderland City Council is getting ready to begin the search for its next chief executive.

With a workforce of more than 2,800 and a budget of £646 million, it is no small task - but with further Government cuts on the horizon, is likely to face tougher times.

Irene Lucas CBE, the serving chief executive of Sunderland City Council.

Irene Lucas CBE, the serving chief executive of Sunderland City Council.

The authority has started to initiate a recruitment process to replace current chief executive Irene Lucas CBE.

She was appointed in March last year on a fixed term basis until June 2019, after previously holding the role on an interim basis since April 2016.

The council says the recruitment drive will start soon to allow it plenty of time to find the right person for the job, with senior officers already working at other authorities likely to have a long notice period to serve.

According to its accounts Ms Lucas was paid £177,816 for the financial year spanning 2016/17.

If the process is successful, it is anticipated that a new appointee could be starting in late summer or the autumn.

Councillor Harry Trueman

Council leader Councillor Harry Trueman said: “The council is looking to begin a recruitment process for a new chief executive in May and June.

“If the process is successful, it is anticipated that a new appointee could be starting in late summer or the autumn.

“Further details will be confirmed in due course.”

Councillor Robert Oliver, leader of the Conservative group on the council, said the recruitment drive gives bosses the chance to make a saving on its wage bill for top officers.

Councillor Harry Trueman, leader of Sunderland City Council.

Councillor Harry Trueman, leader of Sunderland City Council.

The Tory members have highlighted that the chief executive is paid more than Prime Minister Theresa May’s annual bill, which stands at £77,896.

He said: “Few councils pay their top employee more than the leader of the country and there is little justification for such a high salary for a city of a third of a million people compared to an entire nation.

“With a vacancy to be filled soon the council needs to attract a good candidate and pay a salary that allows the city to be competitive with other areas but there is an opportunity for it to be reduced.”

Sunderland City Council is also looking to recruit a new executive director of corporate services, which attracts a salary of £130,000.

Sunderland City Council's Conservative group leader Councillor Robert Oliver

Sunderland City Council's Conservative group leader Councillor Robert Oliver

The job advert states the right candidate will “lead and help shape the full spectrum of corporate services which the council needs to achieve its ambitions.”

The vacancy has been advertised as existing director Barry Scarr is moving on to a new role elsewhere.

The role will cover areas including finance, ICT, customer services, human resources and organisational development, assurance, procurement, performance and contract management and legal and governance services.

The advert adds: “If you are a qualified accountant, you will undertake the role of Section 151 Officer, but we are open- minded on this and are keen to hear from candidates from other relevant professional service areas within this remit.

“With extensive senior leadership experience in a large and complex multi-disciplinary organisation, you will provide the strategic thinking, challenge and direction to support the delivery of our vision for Sunderland.”